Friday, December 15, 2017

What you should know about birth control and breast cancer

One quarter of all women take birth control in the United States. Did you know that it may be linked to an increase in your chance of breast cancer? This is a very delicate topic to study because although hormonal birth control has been a popular contraceptive tactic used, there are newer methods that were not used in other generations, therefore they have not been studied for as long. There have been studies done that lowered the hormonal dosage ingested, thinking that this would minimize the risk but that is not the case. Many years of taking oral hormonal contraceptives adds up over years, increasing the amount of estrogen and pro estrogen in the body. The long someone is exposed to female sex hormones the greater the risk factor they have. This can have several implications when presenting the different birth control options. Although there is a very small risk increase for breast cancer, there are also benefits to birth control as well.
I think this was an interesting article that made me think of how some of the medicines we take day to day can affect us in the long run. Birth control is an extremely popular contraceptive that many women take. But do they know that they may be increasing their risk for breast cancer? If they already have the breast cancer gene, will this increase their chances of getting it even more? Some women may opt to stay with the birth control even with the potential risk for its benefits. I think that there may be other factors in play that need to be taken into consideration to determine whether it is specifically the hormonal increase, or other factors that contribute to it.

Ancient Organs

Researchers may have discovered the 700 million year old mutation that allowed for the production of lungs, forelimbs, and inner ear.  In an article found on Science Daily, many organs in vertebrates have been linked back to multiple mutations.  The regulatory protein called ESRP acts as a molecular switch to splice and rejoin genes, they are also involved with morphogenesis and cell to cell interactions which generate different protein variants.  At first the evolutionary significance of these genes were not known, however until recently it is thought that this group of regulatory proteins mutated and began to create the proteins assigned for the lungs and other organs specific to the vertebrates.
This article is interesting because it shows what could have caused the mutation resulting in the coding for the inner organs.  The evolutionary significance for the ESRP would make sense for it to be important for our history but there had to have been something else alongside this mutation to correct the formation and placement over time for the organs such as the lungs.

Lactic acid bacteria can protect against influenza a virus

#Lacticacidbacteria #protect #influenza

According Georgia State University, lactic acid bacteria can offer protection against different subtypes of influenza A virus, resulting in reduced weight loss after virus infection and lower amounts of virus replication in the lungs. Lactic acid bacteria is commonly used as probiotics to improve digestive health. Although vaccines for seasonal influenza viruses are readily available, influenza virus infections cause three to five million life-threatening illnesses and 250,000 to 500,000 deaths worldwide during epidemics. This study investigated the antiviral protective effects of a heat-killed strain of lactic acid bacteria, Lactobacillus casei DK128 (DK128), a promising probiotic isolated from fermented vegetables, on influenza viruses.

I found this article interesting because this could impact a farmer’s animals. This could create a less change of illness to the animal and provide good health. It was also interesting because the mutation of lactic acid bacteria could reduce the chances of adults developing worst symptoms. I would not mine weight loss after the virus but it is nteresting how they came up with something that could offer potential modifiable target to reduce risk.

Mosquito preference for human versus animal biting has genetic basis

According to a new study from the University of California, mosquitoes are more likely to feed on cattle than on humans if they carry a specific chromosomal rearrangement in their genome. This reduces their odds of transmitting the malaria parasite. This reduces their odds of transmitting the malaria parasite. Rates of malaria transmission depend on whether mosquitoes bite humans or animals, and whether they rest after that meal in an area where they will encounter pesticides. Using genetics to better understand and track mosquito behavior can improve local control strategies. This knowledge may also open novel avenues for stopping malaria's spread, such as genetically modifying mosquitoes to prefer cattle over people.

I never look forward to the summer because I live in an area where mosquitoes attack me from head to toe. After reading this article, it made me wonder if my genome has an arrangement that makes the mosquitos for attached to my blood than to other people. I found it interesting how a specific chromosomal rearrangement of a genome could help reduce the odds of transmitting malaria.

Is health care ready for routine DNA screening? A massive new trial will find out

What if you went to get your genome sequenced and found out months later that you had contained the genes for a deadly disease? What would you do? How would you plan going forward? That is exactly what happened to Dana Atkinson who gave consent to have her DNA sequenced. She is a 38 year old nurse from Susquehanna River and she opted to participate in one of the most ambitious  clinical genome sequencing efforts to date. A few months after having her blood drawn, she got a call and was told that she carried a rare mutation linked to long QT syndrome. Long QT syndrome is a heart rhythm disorder that causes the electrical activity in your body to suddenly go crazy that could result in seizures or even death. The next step Dana did, as anyone would from hearing this news, was she went to a genetic counselor to plan for the future. She was told that although she did carry the gene, she didn't necessarily express the syndromes, and may never express them. The clinical research was being done by the My Code Community Health Initiative and they have sequence more than 92,500 people, while also having 166,000 people enrolled and waiting to be sequenced. Their goal is to enroll half a million of its patients into the initiative, and use the data for research. 
I think that genomic sequencing is important to research and study. It can give us insight into new ideas against fighting viruses and diseases, and can prevent diseases in some cases as well. I think that the more people that have their DNA sequence the better, because better analysis and comparison can been done with more data. The problem is who holds onto this data and the DNA sequences. It could ultimately be used against you, whether in healthcare such as a insurer refusing coverage to certain people containing certain genomes with diseases linked, or if it is used against a group or race of people with the claim of them being inferior because they carry a genetic disease, which may or may not be present at the time. I think it is a very difficult topic that will need much consideration going forward.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Practice May Not Make Perfect: Musical Ability is in The DNA

        I've heard people say before: "music runs in my family" and being a musician myself,  I found the idea quite interesting. When looking for an article, I found the headline: "Musical Ability is in The DNA" and within a matter of seconds, I was reading the article. A fascinating study was done in Sweden's Karolinska Institute by a doctor named Miriam Mosing. The question she had was concerning a person's musical abilities and if it has a strong connection to their genetic makeup. Is music ability due to practice time or DNA? 
       Together with her colleagues, Dr. Mosing studied 1,211 pairs of identical twins and 1,358 pairs of fraternal twins born between 1959 and 1985. Each individual was asked if they play an instrument or actively engaged in singing. If the answer was yes, she proceeded by asking the person to estimate how many hours a week he or she practiced at different ages and with that she calculated a score for their life's practice. Anybody who didn't play an instrument or sing got a score of zero. 
        Her next step was created to test a person's musical abilities. She had every person do the same exercises to test their pitch, appreciation of melody, and sensitivity for rhythm. These three areas were specifically chosen because expert musicians are exceptionally good at detecting differences within them. Most people expect that if someone puts in enough practice time, his music ability would be as high as an expert's; however, this assumption is false. In fact, it appeared to be no relationship between practice and musical abilities of the sort she was measuring. What I found amazing was a twin who practiced more than his genetically identical co-twin did not appear to have better musical abilities as a result. In another case, the difference between two such twins was 20,228 hours of practice. Surprisingly, the pair's measured musical abilities were found to be the same. 
        Dr. Mosing's findings, in no way, indicates that practice, has no value, but we can know that one with the "musical" genes have a really high chance of mastering such skills. In addition to this, her experiment showed music ability has a very strong genetic component which explains to me why I may here "music runs in my family" again. 

Behavior of Epithelial Stem Cells

       In a study published on ScienceDaily, it discusses new research uncovered about how skin is capable of maintaining its structure and organization through each layer in the epidermis. In the epidermis, stem cells are at the very bottom. Stem cells in the epidermis create new somatic cells, which differentiate and move to the top layer of the epidermis. Researchers thought this process was remarkable because cells knew to move to the top of the epidermis instead of remain at the bottom. This process is responsible for how skin is structured. From this study, researchers have discovered the mechanisms behind why stem cells know how to behave this way. In the bottom layer when stem cells divided, other cells in that layer sense that they are being compressed, or that there is an "over-crowding" of dividing cells in that area. When cells in the stem cell layer sense density as a result of the division of stem cells, it triggers them to differentiate as a result of what researchers called "local stress".
     I find this research interesting because we know understand the biological mechanisms behind how our skin and tissues keep its structure. This could also explain how the skin regenerates back to the way it was prior to an injury. While this research is strictly informative, I believe that understanding how cells behave this way from a molecular level will provide some basis for medicine. With more research, it could potentially lead to the development of skin treatments to provoke cells to differentiate faster to reduce the time of the healing process. Overall, I find it fascinating that cells are capable of sensing what neighboring cells are doing, and trigger a response as a result of it.

Genome evidence shows Sumatran rhinos never recovered from Pleistocene period

Around 2011, it was expected that the Sumatran rhinoceros only had a population of about 200. Many are quick to blame recent human activities completely. While these activities drastically affect the rhinos,  a new study shows these rhinos were actually on a steady decline for quite a while. Researchers sequenced and analyzed the first Sumatran rhino genome recently and found that trouble for this species began around the middle of the Pleistocene period around one million years ago. The population of these rhinos peaked around 900,000 years ago and by about 12,000 years ago, these animals as well as many other mammals suffered. The most likely cause was global climate change. The seas rose and submerged the land bridges connecting islands to Asia. The habitat for these rhinos became fragmented and other pressures were put on them. The population bottomed out and never recovered. To come to this conclusion, an approach called pairwise sequential Markovian coalescent (PSMC) was used. This process makes it possible for one to elucidate population history off a genome from an animal. The research done by the team concluded that climate change in the past reduced genetic diversity of the rhinos. This then made them much more vulnerable to the pressures of more recent human activities.